Update on SMS.ac Spam

(Continued from this entry: Spam from SMS.ac.)

Update: Joi Ito received an empty legal threat from Kevin Jones at SMS.ac. Kevin Jones also left a message on my answering machine asking for information on vigilantes who had been posting SMS.ac executives’ personal info in my comments. I’ve noticed GMail and Yahoo Mail are now automatically marking all SMS.ac invitations as “spam,” and shunting them directly to the Junk Mail folder. Heh.

Responding to complaints, “Sean” from SMS.ac (that’s where his IP resolves) comments (here and elsewhere) that there’s a PDF guide on the registration page explaining the spammer script Address Book Synchronizer. I’m trying out the signup now, and finding several usability-related problems with the whole process:

  1. Documentation is a PDF, and not a very good one. Not everyone has Adobe Acrobat Reader, and of those, there are even fewer who will slog through the whole PDF than will even bother to read the fine print on a web form, even one that asks for a password.
  2. Take a look at this form:
    Step 2 of SMS.ac registration
    The instructions say: “Enter your Hotmail login to see who’s connected and automatically bring your friends into your SMS.ac address book.” It isn’t open-ended; it makes the registration process look as though you have to enter your Hotmail/Yahoo password. Of course, you can click NEXT while leaving the password blank, but the flow of the process doesn’t make this option evident: users will most likely fill out the form simply because they see it there. Here’s what they see next:
    Step 2 confirmation
    “Per your request?” This is definitely deceptive phrasing; at no point has it made a request to import all contacts. Note also how the explanation puts ‘Next’ in quotes with a capital letter, while ‘manual selection’ is left lowercase and unquoted, with the corresponding button set unobtrusively to the lower left. Maybe I’m just being paranoid; perhaps it’s just a case of poorly written copy and badly designed flow. Or do they really not want users selecting the option which sends less than the maximum possible amount of spam?
  3. In truth, I see nothing wrong with offering invitations for a service; I’d even venture to say there’s little wrong with an invitation whose From: address is the same as the user’s. Gmail does this. The problem is with subtly leading the user into a crawl of his address book and contact list, then repeatedly hammering the found targets with invitations while the user has no idea that his name is being stamped onto multiple messages, multiple times, to multiple people.
  4. Sean of SMS.ac, though annoying in his smugness, is right: this is the internet (or more appropriately, the hinternet) — people who aren’t careful end up with adware, spyware, trojans, spam, and popups. Responsible companies try to protect their users from their own naivete. SMS.ac, however, appears to exploit it, and should therefore be avoided.

In the feedback thread, “Sean” then goes on to insult other commenters — an object lesson straight from SMS.ac on how not to endear the company to past and potential clientele when you’re out astroturfing on weblogs.

More from Russell Beattie.


  1. Russ says:

    That same jerk tried to leave that same exact comment on my weblog. I just deleted it. Good job showing what a scam SMS.ac really is.


  2. Julie says:

    A friend of ours gave our information to this evil spammer and we have been beseiged with invitations ever since. I fear clicking the link to uninvite myself for fear of what adware/spyware is connected with getting un-connected.

  3. Jerry Xu says:

    [comment deleted, it contained personal email addresses]

  4. Kelseyann says:

    You can unsubscribe from this service relatively easily (or so it seemed to me). Go to My Account and unsubscribe, there’s even a text box to let them know why. Although, it does say that it may take up to 24-hours to delete your account, so it may pay not to be too abusive in your remarks since it looks like unsubscribe requests may be handled by an actual person.

  5. John says:

    I was saved bz the bad image qualitz and bad design of the invitation page, gave me time enough to think about what I was doing, then Google the thing, which is how I wound up here. Seems like no matter how many times we resolve never to enter our information into an email, spammers will always find a way to get in under my defenses — like having the mail bear the name of a sweet old acquaintance! Slimey.

  6. Sandra says:

    I just have to say, thank you! Pages like this really saves my e-mail from getting totally spammed. I used Google too, to end up here, and I am glad I did. There is some hope for us still…

  7. duped says:

    So the sms.ac is just a spam & not an identity theft ring? Please calm my fears!!

    I learned my lesson!!

  8. Beamer says:

    Definitely seems like a hotmail name stealer to me.

    Anything asking for my password is bad. Anything that sends me unsolicited spam claiming to be an invite is bad

  9. jen says:

    yeah, thanks for posting this. I searched for sms.ac on google because I got an invite from a friend, and ended up here. You saved me so much hassle :)

  10. Leland says:

    Me too… invite…Googled… here… SPAM!

    thanks, you saved me sum big trumble 2! :)

  11. Roy says:

    I feel very violated with SMC.AC for their exploitation of our email & password. At the same time, I feel like a total jackass for actually entering my password on some dumb internet site. I am not sure to what degree they used my password, for all I know, they could’ve looked through my email and etc. I know that they were very cunning and sly about sending out invitations, because they were careful not to send the same message to the same person with different accounts that were listed in my address book. Is there a way to formally file a complaint? Arrrrg, I am such a fxxxin moron… for actually falling for one of these.

  12. mac says:

    I to was a victim of my thinking this was a good thing. The only Messages that seem to be getting thru are theirs.If Anyone knows how to cancel this nightmare. Pleae post it .

  13. Nathaniel Ngo says:

    I don’t know if any of you have noticed this, but I have unsubscribed from SMS.ac (and use their “delete account” function) for over 2 months now and they still spam my friends with invitation. I have also tried to contact their customer service asking them to any information that was linked to my ID but they didn’t reply. It’s disappointing that SMS.ac had a good concept but they chose to abuse it.

    Please let me know if any of you have successfully unsubscribed to this service.

  14. lil says:

    Yeah, the crappy design of the site set of warning bells in my mind, as did the fact that it wasn’t even a dot com. That doesn’t always mean anything, but it gave me pause. Glad I checked them out.

    Just creepy.

  15. Anonymous says:

    if anyone has any idea how you can stop the invitations from getting sent please post!!!!!!

  16. Monoxide says:

    me.. invited.. accepted.. notstoopidenuff2enterhotmailinfo.. spammedhardcore.. googled.. endeduphere.. unsubscribed.. IAMFREENOW

  17. neli says:

    i’m stuck with si many expensive message from sms.ac i want to unsuscribe

  18. ben says:

    i share the same sentiments … that crap is a rip off! having received sms from strange people and getting billed each time!

  19. Chloe says:

    hey, can someone help me?? i recieve about 8-10 messages a day from this site, i have not signed up and i dont know what to do.. can anyone help?

    if so please email me on